2019 IRT Professional Development Workshop is in the Books!
By Cindy Tilbury and Rick Betts, IRT Investors
Wow! What a week! Malibu’s Las Flores Canyon was overrun with IRT professional racquetball players for a few days this July. Rick Betts’ house was full of dedicated IRT athletes, where they stayed when they were not on the court working hard on their skills.
Pro player participants were Jaime Martell and Alan Natera from Mexico (sponsored by Reaching Your Dreams Foundation), Luis Avila and Dane Elkins from California (also sponsored by Reaching Your Dreams Foundation), and Scott McClellan from Texas—the IRT’s head referee and top-ranked player.
And since there were a few more openings, late entry amateur players were Ivan Sanchez and Cody Elkins from California, and Ben Sheehan from Oregon. Cody and Ben play doubles together in Junior competitions; Ivan will be playing the pro tour in a few more years and (we hope) setting up a racquetball sport club at his college next year!
Of course, we could not teach these guys anything without some serious coaches. Tom Travers of Florida, Guatemala and Costa Rica was our main coach, Jerry Hilecher of California worked with the pros the first night, and Debbie Tisinger-Moore of California ran through footwork and shotwork with them the last day.
What all did the workshop attendees do on the court? Videos of their play were scrutinized closely for opportunities to improve. Singles and doubles positioning and shot selection were stressed relentlessly. Serve and mid-rally shot cutoffs were practiced for hours. Drills to do in pairs and alone were taught. Then there were serves—the most important part of the game and the least-consistent weapon in many pro arsenals.
Not only did the workshop attendees hone their racquetball skills, but they also concentrated on other, just-as-important life expertise. A few got up early to run the Malibu hills; others took time to go to the weight room. Also, our young men had lesson units on IRT announcements, mindful meditation, planning for life after pro racquetball, working with tournament directors, sponsor appreciation, self-promotion, stringing, rules and refereeing, stretching, healing, and yoga. Many thanks to the volunteer experts Doug Ganim, Pat Sanchez, Mike Grisz, Rick Betts, Dean Baer, Dylan Reid, Tim Baghurst, Scott McClellan, Scott Stella, and Barbara Yundt.
To add a little fun and get all of the IRT fans involved, Cindy Tilbury livestreamed several hours of the activities via Facebook Live. The comments were lively and views were plentiful—21,000 and growing. Not bad for a bunch of guys learning how to play better and not actually competing for big money. Perhaps it was the witty banter of the commentator. Perhaps not.
Then, to add to the fun, the guys retired to the Betts hot tub after dinner, shot billiards, and looked at their phones a lot. One unexpected, crazy turn of events was that, at one point, about seven of the guys were all playing online chess against each other (lichess.org) on their phones. Scott McClellan was playing four of the other guys, and two or three of the remaining players were playing each other in a second and third game. It was chess game pandemonium—silent pandemonium.
All of the students assured the organizers that they learned many new things. Ben Sheehan told Cindy Tilbury that he “will be much faster because of the footwork drills” and that he “appreciated the opportunity to learn alongside the much better players.” Luis Avila and Dane Elkins attended this workshop last year and felt they definitely built on those skills this time. Ivan Hernandez was a superstar at the cutoff drills. Jaime Martell, Alan Natera and Scott McClellan were especially appreciative of the doubles shot selection reviews. Cody Elkins improved his positioning after serving. All eight would recommend a similar workshop for any player wanting to improve his/her game—pros should plan now to sign up for next year’s event.
Tom Travers left everyone with a tip that all players should consider. “Buying and using a stringing machine can pay for itself in less than a year. Stringing racquets for yourself and your player friends on an inexpensive stringing machine can make and save you lots of cash over the years.” You’re welcome!